Appreciating Systems

Appreciating Systems for Genuine Efficiency
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#Lean doesn’t scale according to @Michael_Balle. I disagree (a bit) #leanenfrance29

June 1st, 2018 Posted in Change, Lean Tags: , , , , , , ,

Today, it was (program here). Excellent conference as usual, check later for the slides on their website.

In one of his clarifications given during the conference, Michael Ballé said that “Lean doesn’t scale” despite us (consultants, whether internal or external, or CEOs) repeatedly looking for rapid scaling of the results.

It’s unusual, but today, I felt like I have to disagree. A bit.

Of course, solutions don’t scale. They’ve been grown by the people of a specific place (gemba), for that place and for that very same people. Every context is different, be it, of course, another company or another service in your own company. Taiichi Ohno himself is said to having had to struggle a lot each time he went from one line to another (we’re different, it doesn’t apply to use, it can’t work here, etc.)

So, can the Lean tools scale and replicate? Well, yes and no.

  • Can they replicate? Surely and it’s been written in numerous books. It’s probably also part of the problem why Lean struggles that much to enter in new companies: because people try to replicate the tools (for the solutions they bring) as detailed in the book. But replicating the tools doesn’t guarantee replication of the results, for you’ll surely fail to develop the people while trying to enforce the tools. It’s not about the tools (or worse, their results), it’s about the people (or better, the thinking process in the people’s heads).
  • Can they scale? Well, we’ve seen Lean tools be used in other places than the shop floor, like in offices or in the board in order to develop and follow a strategy (think Strategic A3, problem solving A3s, etc.) which can have a leveraging effect (after all, the hierarchical pyramid exists precisely for this in the first place: to leverage the impact of the (wo)man at the top). Does it mean they can replicate the results from one division to the others in a snap? Of course not. To keep with the A3 example, what’s important in the A3 is not the paper, it’s the thinking process that’s behind it. And if you can transmit information, you can’t transmit knowledge: that one has to be grown by each and every mind on its own, based on its personal experiences.

So, back to my title: does Lean scale?

If you mean swiftly replicating the tools from one place to another as if it were an identical place, hell no. No place is identical. Even two identical production lines are different, because they are operated by different people, using equipment with different levels of wearing, hence with different faults, breaks and problems (even if they’re similar).

But what you can replicate are the tools, not for the solutions they bring, but for the thinking patterns they’ve repeatedly proven to foster in those who use them properly (hint: keyword here). The trick is that, in Lean management, when the wise shows the moon, the fool looks at it! (S/he should look at the wise and understand why the moon is pointed at. Why the moon and not something else?)

So, how one does scale Lean? Obviously, by replicating the moon-pointing wise men, the senseï!

Lean is not about improving the results, nor is it about improving the process (which I thought up to recently). Lean is about improving the people that operate the process (remember the Toyota saying about “making things is making people or, in japanese, Mono tsukuri wa, hito tsukuri?). Indeed, this is what Michael reminded us about during that very conference. And probably in all previous ones as well.

And if you want to scale the “improving the people” part, you need to grow more coaches or senseïs able to foster Lean thinking in people. Which is precisely what Lean Coaching is all about (or Toyota Kata), starting at the CEO level coaching his subordinates, themselves coaching their own subordinates, up to shop floor collaborators.

So, of course, it’s a slow process. So if by “scaling Lean” you thought achieving quicker results by way of bypassing the “developing people” part (which is long), of course you can’t (well, you can on a short time frame, but as soon as the coach turns round the corner, performance withers).

But if by scaling you mean improving your impact onto the number of people you can develop in a time interval, then of course you can! But not shortly. Yet, it’s still more efficient and effective than (wrongly) replicating the tools and they quick results without having grown the accompanying mental model and having disappearing a few months or years later because nobody really understood what the real story was all about.


Michael Ballé’s @TheGembaCoach Column: respect and sensei

Interesting question asked to Michael Ballé, to which I added my comments at the end (with lots of typos, sorry :-/)

Dear Gemba Coach,If lean is based on respect for people, why are sensei gemba visits reputed to be so tough?

Source: Michael Ballé’s Gemba Coach Column

#Labso leaflet available in english!

It’s with great pleasure that I propose below the first translation of our french leaflet regarding the #labso. That will be the base for the translation of the official website ( once we find the time to do so.

The source document will be uploaded to some shared repository as soon as possible as well. Meanwhile, feel free to drop us a note if you have comments, requests or else @nicolasstampf or @alexis8nicolas.

Enjoy: QUAD LabSoTech v1.2 EN


Social constructionism is to #Lean what lecturing is to #Taylorism

I just invented this one…

Of course, that Lean promotes cooperation and co-improvement of the organization (through nemawashi) makes the sentence all the more interesting 😉

All those consultants that try to force Lean down the throat of the managers that, according to them, are too dumb to “get it” are just, IMHO, plain wrong. This is the surest path to “change resistance“. Of course, telling is quicker than letting people experiment and trying to understand things from the perspective of the people.

Yet, if management is supposed to learn how to have their people conduct experiments, and then learn from them, then share them with their colleagues throughout the organization, why on earth are they lecturing and teaching them Lean?! If managers learn anything, that will be to continue in command-and-control mode and impose Lean tools and processes onto employees that won’t necessarily understand the purpose of them. And since the managers don’t know exactly how things happens on the Gemba (of many managers do “standing in the circle” for hours ?), they commands will be just resented as unsuited at best by employees, further decreasing their engagement levels, and the few trust left they might have had in their managers.

Is that really what’s wanted?

Of course, putting on my “Systems Dynamics” hat, I can see that the more consultants do it that way, the less organizations really improve on the long-term, and the more need will be felt for more Lean consulting.

I am not saying that consultants want the situation to be that way. I’m just saying that doing more of the same Lean teaching method will just produce more of the same long-term failed results.

Doing more of the same and expecting different results is the definition of insanity according to Einstein

Why do people don’t adopt #systemsthinking?

This is a recurring question in the LinkedIn forum “Systems Thinking World” hosted by Gene Bellinger. And one that haven’t had any satisfactorily answer so far.

Indeed, I think that the opposite question is valid too and even provides a hint as to one possible answer: “why do people using systems thinking don’t reverse to another way of thinking?

A more general question might be “why do people think the way they think?

Read more »

#Lean and @simonsinek’s Golden Circle : there’s hope for you, yet…

February 24th, 2014 Posted in Lean Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

I had a sort of epiphany this morning during commute.

Lean isn’t, or shouldn’t, be transmitted or taught about improving performance or best to achieve performance.

The recent history of Lean seems to me to have gone through the following steps, which, in my mind, mirror the approaching of the WHY center circle of Simon Sinek.

Whats of Lean were the first to be taught (probably because they were the easiest to spot and understand inside Toyota plants) – and is still probably the main line of teaching Lean. Incidentally, these were those Taiichi Ohno warned us against:

  • Results: is orientated toward increasing performance of the company
  • Teaching of Lean: based mostly on using tools

Hows of Lean saw the beginning of a change in how Lean is transmitted:

  • Results: are sought through people and therefore “Respect” comes again to the fore (which it should never have left anyway)
  • Teaching of Lean: centered on how you achieve results (through people), that solutions come from them, not from the sensei. I think the epitome for this is the great “Toyota Kata” approach to teach Lean from Mike Rother.

Whys of Lean is when executives understand there’s really something more to improving a company, and that “respect for people” really is meant for more than mere words:

  • Results: are about contributing to something bigger than the company
  • Teaching of Lean: Lean is about making people flourish both inside and outside the company

Funnily, the more you advance in how you see Lean (according to the preceding three steps), the less you speak about Lean stuff and more about personal and organizational purpose.

Of course, I can’t end this post without this famous quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

Simon, I bow before you…

Build a #school in the #cloud by @sugatam, a @TED #video

I finally took the time to view this wonderful video. Mr Mitra experimented with remote villages in India, where children don’t speak english nor are used to computers, and see what would happen in a few months. Guess what? The children were able to 1) learn english and 2) understand scientific concept far advanced for their ages. All on their own, without any kind of help at all.

His wish is thus to build a school in the cloud where children could learn on their own (he calls this SOLE: Self-Organized Learning Environments (go to that link, there’s a PDF toolkit to download for free) with the help of, for instance, remote retired teachers, through Skype.

I’m not into teaching, but I can’t help make the connection with what happens in organizations. Lean was known as TPS (Toyota Production System) in the beginning, although Taiichi Ohno insisted for it to be called Thinking Production System, meaning by this that it was meant to make people think and really learn about their organization so as to improve it. I guess the concept of a Learning Organization comes from the same desires, too.

In order to improve an organization, people need to learn and innovate in the fields of technology, facilitation, psychology (whether to convince other of the importance of their findings, or to better market whatever it is they’re selling, etc.)

Do our organizations really facilitate this learning? I’m afraid not. Mr Mitra tells us that tests and punishments are seen as threats by the brain and stop all learning and innovating activity. Only appreciation and encouragement liberate those.

Isn’t this a really good praise for Appreciative Inquiry or Solution Focus?!

I think the best way to have organizations improve is not to put up new training or innovation programs, but rather to remote all barriers to self-organization. Let people connect to one another, teach one to another, discussion, exchange and experiment! It’s not just stuff for children. Adults can benefit from it too!

Indeed, lots of companies are starting to liberate themselves in these ways. See the french companies Favi, Poult or others such as Zappos (who just announced they will get rid of all their managers and just function with their 1500 productive employees).

Have you read “Freedom, Inc” from Isaac Getz? Do it now! 🙂 I think it just the same kind of principles for a new way to organize organizations…


@NancyDuarte #resonate #free #book on making presentations: what if you could *really* turn your audience into a hero?

I’m reading the beginning of this great book from Nancy Duarte she just released for free in beautiful HTML 5: Resonate. The book’s (or the beginning of it at least) is about the Monomyth as it’s been described by Joseph Campbell in “A Hero’s Journey”.

The purpose of a presentation should be to tell a story and make your audience like it is the hero of it, by making it visualize “what could be” in comparison to “what is“. The intent is to “sell” your proposal of how to achieve the “what could be” part of your message.

Yet, I’m thinking of all these strength-based approaches to change I’ve learned these recent years. For instance:

  • Appreciative Inquiry could be used to have people remember of personal situations where they lived the opposite of the problem (that is a strongly positive situation, that is, an experience of “what could be”). Combined with the social constructionist principle of AI, this could help people co-create their journey rights when you’re presenting (instead of waiting for the “call to action” to start it at the end of the presentation)
  • Solution Focus is explicitly based on the premise that the Future Perfect has already happened, at least partially,and to find again what behavior supported it at that time that could be amplified and done again.

So, instead of just encouraging your audience to just imagine them being a hero, what about having them remember they’ve already been the hero, and probably more than once?

Indeed, the story has already begun albeit in a masqueraded way. The real threshold would then be to have them commit to it and reveal it to the world.

Instead of holding the mirror where the audience can see itself in, what about giving them the mirror to play with? To discover sides of themselves they’ve never imagined they had? And then let them experiment with it right away?

This, I will ponder. I will continue reading the book, because it’s just excellent so far!


#Systemsthinking and #DSRP questions to improve systemic view of processes (Ref @iDSRP)

April 25th, 2013 Posted in Systems Thinking Tags: , , ,

Although I love methods, standards (hey, I’m from Lean!) and the like, I also like when people come up with ways to look at their work and their company in perspectives that external people (us here) might not have imagined.

So, also to keep things simple, I would consider teaching people (and making corresponding “templates”) about DSRP as a way to learn differently than only linear thinking. See to know more on that systems thinking approach or method.

Faced with a problem (a process to be improved for instance), DSRP would allow to ask broader-view questions such as:

  • Distinctions: what are we looking at? What’s missing from the picture? Who could provide for other distinctions?
  • Systems: what systems (notice the plural here) does this process contribute to? What sub-systems is it composed of?
  • Relationships: how are parts of the process interacting with each others, especially differently than from what’s written on paper (possible ISO 9001 documentation)? What relationships are we blind to? How could we know best? How is this process related to other processes (both formally AND informally)?
  • Perspectives: what assumptions are we making regarding this process and how it is supposed to function? What assumptions make it (dys)function the way it does? What other perspective might we take to enlight the process differently? What might we learn, then?

And of course, there’s the possibility to use DSRP to craft positive and appreciative questions. I haven’t much given thoughts to this, but I will surely address the topic in my book “The Colors of Change“.

Level 1 Module 1 – ThinkNation @iDSRP #systemsthinking: why we need it so much

I’ve just viewed the video here about the DSRP “thinking toolkit” I’ve already blogged about. Indeed, I even used it for my introductory Systems Thinking Slides out of my recent Napkin skills.

Level 1 Module 1 – ThinkNation.

Check the web site!

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